WE HAVE been unkind to the “buriring”, that species of puffer fish we shun because of its hard-to-swallow reputation. The buriring's unfair treatment stems from its sordid family background where unpalatable characters lurk.
Its cousins - the butete, tingga-tingga, tikong, and kumbiray - are qualified for either the murder or attempted murder of scores of unsuspecting victims. They also love playing Russian roulette with the daring who do not know if the next spoonful would send him to gustatory paradise or to heaven with no chance of returning to earth. The buriring is an exception to the unsavory family trait. When prepared and cooked the right way, it is a dish to die for. Oops!
Read on to know what I mean.
The tiny puffer fish is just over an inch long so it is cooked whole with no need for scaling and gutting. It has rough, tough skin, tiny fins and an endearing face that, when puffed up, can look comical. In fact, I am perplexed as to where the face ends and the body begins. This fish looks more face than body to me.
Cooking buriring requires just a few ingredients. In Cadiz, for example, where the fish is enjoyed with gusto when it is in season, the basics are peeled and seasoned with sliced santol fruit, red hot peppers, red onions, and leaves of the libas tree which is the souring agent.
The one recipe I watched being demonstrated goes like this: fish is seasoned with sea salt and the mixture, in turn, is vigorously mixed with a handful of crushed libas leaves. The fish is washed and drained and set aside. Peel santol fruit and separate the pulp from the seeds and slice the former. Put everything with the fish.
Add whole red peppers, sliced red onions, more salt if needed and other seasonings. (Modern times have called for modern condiments which I disapprove of, actually.) Mix everything very well and put in a thick iron pot. Cover with a layer of libas leaves. Put over a medium fire and cook covered for 20 minutes or so. Halfway, lift the lid and dot the dish with butter, return the lid on the pot and cook for 10 minutes more.
One could almost feel anticipation in the air as thick as the smoke rising from the boiling soup. The aroma is not fishy but is redolent of libas leaves. The santol isn't a dominant flavor and could have played a secondary role to the libas in ridding the mixture of its fishy taste.
Buriring is eaten whole so there's that inseparable texture of fish meat and fish bone. The little soup left is either slurped off a spoon or mixed with rice tingeing the grains yellow. Yellow is not only from the added butter but mainly from the fish itself.
Around the second week of August, when the fish is at its peak and maturity, the buriring turns yellowish from the fat covering its enlarged liver. The fat slightly thickens the soup and the blend of sour and spicy even brings to mind the lina-ga of a corner carinderia. It is tasty and delicious that you wouldn't mind sticky lips afterwards.
To take advantage of the seasonal visit of the buriring, Cadiz City came up with Buriring in August: A Culinary Adventure where cooks from Cadiz and Sagay came together to cook buriring in different ways.
This is to debunk the myths about the buriring and show the public that this puffer fish is not that kind of puffer fish.
Negros Occidental's 2nd District holds 1st Buriring Festival
The many ways of cooking buriring (an edible kind of puffer fish) was showcased at the 1st Buriring Festival at the Don Bernardo Benedicto Community Center in Cadiz City yesterday.
Called "Buriring in August: A Culinary Adventure," the activity was a partnership of the city governments of Cadiz and Sagay and the municipal government of Manapla.
For many families in the Second District, buriring is a favorite course in many tables especially on the month of August. It's unique and exotic taste satisfies many palates. Its appearance has always been an anticipated event since its presence is brief.
This is also one of the reasons why the people of Second District staged this event - to show the proper and safe way to cautiously select and prepare this exotic dish. As we do this, we will also be retracing its roots and culinary history.
Ten cooks from Cadiz and Sagay cooked 170 kilos of buriring with various takes and twists. Aside from the traditional ones like with libas leaves, santol and other spices, other cooks used coconut milk, pineapple, malunggay, butter, kamias, guava leaves, pineapple and lemon grass leaves.
The cooks were Erlinda Lumabang, 66, of Barangay Caduhaan; Julio Gellera of Barangay Old Sagay; Murriel Cana, Nilo Libre Escanillan of Barangay Zone 4; Hyacinth Delgado, 31, of Barangay Daga; Nelsa de la Vega, 53, of Barangay Zone 6; Feli Cemini, 42, of Barangay Zone 6; Allan Jayson Piamonte of Barangay Zone 4; Margarita Ponce of Poblacion I; and Erwin Majarucon, 23, of Barangay Zone 1.
Representative Leo Rafael Cueva said this is one way to promote what is unique in the Second District - and no other exotic dish can be this unique as buriring. He said this is also to help promote tourism in the district.
Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said this is the first time he tried buriring because the general impression is it is toxic.
Sagay Mayor Alfredo Marañon III said this event also proudly showcases the uniqueness of buriring.
Cadiz Mayor Patrick Escalante said he feels blessed that the district has a good supply of buriring this season in time for the first Buriring Festival.
Also attending the festival were Board Member Salvador Escalante, and officials of Cadiz, Sagay and Manapla.